Wooden Eyes: Nine Reflections on Distance

Carlo Ginzburg (Author) Martin Ryle (Translator)
& 1 more


"I am a Jew who was born and who grew up in a Catholic country; I never had a religious education; my Jewish identity is in large measure the result of persecution." This brief autobiographical statement is a key to understanding Carlo Ginzburg's interest in the topic of his latest book: distance. In nine linked essays, he addresses the question: "What is the exact distance that permits us to see things as they are?" To understand our world, suggests Ginzburg, it is necessary to find a balance between being so close to the object that our vision is warped by familiarity or so far from it that the distance becomes distorting.

Opening with a reflection on the sense of feeling astray, of familiarization and defamiliarization, the author goes on to consider the concepts of perspective, representation, imagery, and myth. Arising from the theme of proximity is the recurring issue of the opposition between Jews and Christians--a topic Ginzburg explores with an impressive array of examples, from Latin translations of Greek and Hebrew scriptures to Pope John Paul II's recent apology to the Jews for antisemitism. Moving with equal acuity from Aristotle to Marcus Aurelius to Montaigne to Voltaire, touching on philosophy, history, philology, and ethics, and including examples from present-day popular culture, the book offers a new perspective on the universally relevant theme of distance.

Product Details

Columbia University Press
Publish Date
July 10, 2001
6.38 X 0.91 X 9.3 inches | 1.17 pounds
BISAC Categories:

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Carlo Ginzburg teaches at UCLA, where he is the Franklin D. Murphy Chair of Italian Renaissance Studies. His other books in English include The Cheese and the Worms, No Island Is an Island: Four Glances at English Literature in a World Perspective, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches'Sabbath and The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.


The essays show familiar qualities of Ginzburg's writing, his preference for unconventional perspectives, the vigour and sharpness of his reasoning and his mercurial yet highly disciplined intellectual zest.--Luigi Meneghello "Times Literary Supplement "
Although the text ranges over diverse sources, the essays are succinct and thought-provoking.--Choice
The scope of his primary sources--philosophers from Aristotle to Adorno, authors from the gospel writers to Proust, artists from Caravaggio to Magritte--befits a thinker of dazzling erudition and innovative brio.... Ginzburg's work represents the finest in philosophical musings, as he coaxes the reader into new perceptions of the seemingly simple concept of distance, which he renders startlingly fresh. His breadth is intimidating, his depth daunting, and his conclusions staggering.--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Given Ginzburg's astonishing intellectual range - he dances with intimidating ease across half a dozen languages and two and a half millennia of writings, quoting his authorities with the easy familiarity of deep study - the essays dazzle as much as they inform. The book is an intellectual banquet.--Ethics, Place and Environment